The “Iron Lady” of Nepalese diaspora recognised for years of selfless service

14 October 2016: Deepa Rai has faced all sorts of storms as she ceaselessly fought for justice, harmony and promotion of Nepalese culture in Australia. For over fifteen years now, she has been the godsend saviour to those who need her support but for people on the wrong side of the moral fence, she is a trouble! She is particularly a fierce defender of victims of domestic violence and has been equally constructive for those who need community’s help due to unforeseen life events.

During India-Bangladesh match at the Cricket World Cup last year, she waved a poster crying “United against slavery of migrant workers in Qatar” and got briefly detained by the police. What she really wanted to do was to use the platform of the popular game to draw world’s attention to the plight of migrant workers in the Gulf emirate. She wanted to stop the routine arrivals of coffins of Nepalese men as they worked in “medieval” work conditions at the construction sites of 2022 FIFA World Cup venues.


Her journey has not been a walk through the park. Ms Rai has received messages full of abuse, hate and threat. She was targeted on social media for openly saying what she believed. More recently, she was singled out by supporters of current Nepalese prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias Prachanda for her fiery protest against his Australia visit. She has been asked to keep her mouth shut on matters related to Nepal because some believe she has lost her right to speak about her country of origin.

So she has faced it all, and in the process has been shaped by it all, never backing down.

norgen-norbooAs a close friend to Ms Rai, Norgen Norbóó knows what stuff the community hero is made of. “Deepa didi (sister) is an independent woman. She is a source of inspiration to all of us. She has demonstrated her selfless community work through advocacy and community capacity building,” the young man from Melbourne told “Above all she never quits,” he added.

It is this conviction for what is right as well as her relentless contribution to Australia’s multicultural fabric that made Nepalese Association of Victoria (NAV) recommend her name for Victoria’s Multicultural Awards 2016.

Given her well-known profile in Victoria, she won the award under “Meritorious Award for Community Service” category. Ms Rai and other recipients were given the awards amid a formal ceremony at Melbourne’s Government House on Thursday night.

She is the only recipient of the award from the Nepalese community for 2016.

Niru Tripathee, Bharansher Rai and Hari Gurung – also from the Nepalese diaspora in Victoria, received letters acknowledging their service to the community.

The Multicultural Awards for Excellence are given “for outstanding achievements and services of individuals and organisations who have actively supported cultural diversity and made a positive impact in promoting community harmony”.

Given by Victorian Multicultural Commission, the annual awards acknowledge and celebrate people and organisations who have made valuable contributions to multicultural communities in Victoria through fields such as philanthropy, advocacy, leadership, arts, health, education, media and innovation.

Victorian Multicultural Commission Chairperson Ms Helen Kapalos said the awards recognise Victorians who champion cultural diversity. “Each recipient goes above and beyond to support our multicultural community and make a difference in the lives of others. And they do so with unwavering passion and dedication, embodying what it means to be a Diversity Hero,“ Ms Kapalos was quoted as saying.

This year marks the 15th year since the Multicultural Awards were instituted. Nineteen awards were given under various categories as well as 77 certificates of merit.

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